Jane Campion making a thriller? The Kiwi helmer behind Portrait Of A Lady, a film so poised, so cold, it seems to have been shot through a sheet of ice? Next you'll be telling us McG's making a gentle love story set in Bengal.
But having Campion adapt Susanna Moore's novel In The Cut isn't that crazy. At its heart is a raw, slightly skewed love/lust affair and JC's status as an outsider, geographically and artistically, allows a rare freshness to slink in. This is a film that portrays New York as a mixture of dream and sleaze, beauty and sorrow, flowing languidly at its own pace, unafraid to breathe.
When Frannie Avery (Meg Ryan) is visited by James Malloy (Mark Ruffalo), a detective tracking a kill'n'chop nutjob, she doesn't know why the latest victim's head was found in her garden. She does know that she's seen Malloy before - he was receiving a blow job in the basement of a bar. Getting head, in fact, off the very woman who lost hers later that night.
From this attention-slapping start point, In The Cut unspools as a graceful, sinewy thriller in more ways than one, with Frannie and Malloy getting down to some spicy sex. And it's far from tame. Especially given Frannie gets off on Malloy's uncouthness: his sordid language, his disreputable sexual history, the possibility he's killing girls...
Fascinating stuff then, superbly played by Ryan and Ruffalo. Less successful is the over-crafted script, full of patterns and echoes, or the insistence on moulding every male support character into a Possible Psycho. We've guessed who the killer is by the third reel, so why not let it go? After all, there's so much more to enjoy...
A lovingly crafted thriller that's overflowing with red herrings and way too symmetrical. Hypnotic viewing from start to finish, though, with great central performances.